So in 40 days, I will be turning 40. I am hoping to write 40 blog posts of formative people/events/places along my journey that helped get me to this milestone of sorts in my life. I’m supposing this may be therapeutic for me and perhaps entertaining for others. I’m not fearful of turning 40, I’m somewhat thankful.
Firstly, I’m reflecting on my roots and my beginnings come from the city of ‘brotherly love’: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born in Frankford Hospital on the northeast side of Philly, I’m told after my early morning birth during a snowstorm that my Mom immediately ordered a cheesesteak, that’s what Philly is all about right there. By the way, for the record, Tony Luc’s is my favorite Philly cheesesteak. After that, anything mafia-owned has the best food, whether it be cheesesteaks or a good slice of pizza pie.
I have this poster pictured above in my home office to remind me of my roots. I’ve lived in the midwest now since 1987, but there’s a part of me that will always be Philly. And yes, I believe Rocky was real, not just a movie. If you think otherwise, you’re entitled to your wrong opinion. One of my favorite books as a kid was a photo picture book of the story of Rocky II, I read it daily and got jacked up everytime Adrian came out of her coma, turned to Rocky and said: “there’s one thing I want you to do for me, Rocky . . . win . . WIN!” And then after the gongs, Mickey steps in, “Well, what are we waitin’ for?” I think that somehow through the Rocky story and narrative I learned a couple things about life that have served me well.
First, I learned that life is largely about managing conflicts. Fighting is a bit of a metaphor for life. It’s really hard, you will get knocked down, it’s painful, there will be opposition, there will be times when it seems that everyone is against you. That you find yourself in a fight, is a given, the only question is how you will deal with it. Do you stay down or do you make a choice down deep within you to get up? Do you have the heart and the guts to stand when no one else is standing with you? When you get punched by life, is there any life in you that determines a way to punch back? Do you have a stubborn voice buried deep within that says lying down is not an option, not getting up is not an option, giving up is not an option. When you get bullied, do you measure your response? Do you have the pride, character and resolve to compete in the fights of life? One of my childhood memories was falling asleep with my finger in a bullet hole that was over my bed in our double-wide trailer in Levittown that we lived in that was caused by a stray .22 shotgun of a neighbor. It didn’t harm us, but I would literally fall asleep with my finger in the hole perhaps ingraining in me that life would be a fight. Growing up in Philly, this was a reality.
Seondly, I learned that fights aren’t won on fight night. They are won in the cold morning dusk when you decide to get up because your heart won’t let you lie down any longer. Training and hard work is a blue-collar value that I learned at a young age is a given in life if you want to accomplish anything. Nothing that is worth having is given to you, if you believe in it, you work harder than anyone else towards your goal. Achievement of goals as well is not always about hard work, there are many other factors, but hard work says you gave it everything you had, you left your heart out there. Giving something everything you got is a ‘win’ in an of itself, hard work is it’s own reward. In a world strife with entitlements, I pray we remember the value and reward of hard work, there are no shortcuts.
So I’ve long left Philly, but Philly has not long left me. I am often far more intense than my reserved midwestern coworker/neighbors, my passions are on my sleeves though I think father-wisdom has taught me to channel them towards productivity rather than a raging river or emotion. As well though, I’ve embraced this, it’s part of who I am. If I can’t live life out loud, I’m not really present in it. Passion, heart and stubborn determination are things I hope to pass on to my kids, being reserved just doesn’t work for me. So to the city of brother love, I thank you, you remain a part of who I am.
I leave you with the beautiful romantic poetry of Rocky Balboa on the day he proposed to Adrian:
“Cuz you’s gots gaps, and’s I’s gots gaps . . . but together, we ain’t gots no gaps.”
(sniff, sniff, it’s like Shakespeare)